Texas has a problem with feral hogs. Actually, the Lone Star State has 2 million problem feral hogs rooting around in the state. That’s roughly half of the national total.Early pioneers allowed pigs to roam free, and their descendants today manage to cause $52 million in crop damage for Texas farmers despite the state’s $25 million program to control the population with hunting, trapping, and relocation.
The large population of feral hogs is a problem, but the state also has another growing population that is causing concern: the number of wounded warriors returning to families in Texas after being injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. Kristine Haehn and her husband, David, wanted to give wounded veterans and their families hope and healthy recreation as part of their ministry.
So they came up with the idea of going whole hog to help wounded veterans – and help minimize the ecological and financial damage that feral hogs were doing at the same time. The result is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 called Hogs for a Cause.
The faith-based organization is located in Belton, Texas near the massive Fort Hood Army base. Haehn says that the organization builds on her family’s two great passions: a love of the great outdoors and their faith. “Our mission is to offer recreational activities to wounded veterans. One of those activities is to get these vets outdoors, where they can hunt the hogs that are tearing up farmland and threatening our ecosystem.
“After a hunt, we all get together and smoke the meat. We can share the gospel over a tasty meal, and there’s plenty of meat to send home to the families of injured veterans who may be struggling financially.”
Each soldier also gets a DVD with video from the hunt so that they can share the experience with their friends and family. “This is a significant milestone for a lot of these guys. For some, it’s the first step toward feeling ‘normal’ again after their injuries,” Haehn says.
Wounded Veterans: People, Not Statistics
David Haehn worked with soldiers every day even before he and his wife founded Hogs for a cause. One of his jobs was compiling casualty statistics of soldiers’ in Afghanistan. One day, he realized that he wasn’t just looking at statistics. He was looking at the stories of how the veterans and their families were being affected, and he knew in his heart that he was being called on to help.
“He saw that these service members who came home wounded too often lost the zest for life. Some of them had important military positions but felt unimportant after an injury,” Haehn says of her husband’s epiphany.
“The injured soldiers told him that most of their days were consumed by doctor’s appointments and daily formations. We started Hogs for a Cause to provide them with recreation and give them hope through the gospel.”
During a recent hunt that included rock star and NRA officer Ted Nugent, 156 hogs were harvested, and the soldiers helped to process the meat, which later is given to struggling families in the local area. It can become a very emotional event for both the soldiers and those receiving the gift. “It lets each individual know that they can make a difference with their lives and help wounded warriors by giving them hope,” she said.
Bible Study & Barbecue
One important part of each hunt happens when the thermal imaging units and guns are put away. That’s when the custom-made 20-foot barbecue grill is wheeled out, and four large 5’ grills are fired up.
While the food is cooking, and when the successful hunters sit down to share a well-earned meal made possible by their skill and hard work, it’s time for a bit of Bible study. “My satisfaction in operating this organization comes from having the opportunity to spread God’s word and see how it positively affects people. You can see the difference in the veteran’s outlook and attitude after they finish their first hunt.
“The response we get from just loving people changes their lives,” she said. “It’s been such an awesome experience to be around all of this.”
There are other groups that work with injured vets, but Haehn says there isn’t much out there that combines Christian ministry and hunting.
The Haehns have spread the word about their non-profit through various channels, including a website, an e-mail list, business cards, brochures, and through organizations like Hope for the Hungry and Legacy Outfitters.
The Challenge of Accounting for Non-Profits
Like many non-profit founders, Haehn and her husband started Hogs for a Cause while both had full-time jobs. “It can be difficult to make a living while running a non-profit,” Haehn said.
As any entrepreneur can attest, start-up business accounting is a challenge, and accounting for non-profits is a different kind of challenge. It was the dual challenge of doing both at the same time that first led Kristine Haehn to sign up with 1-800Accountant.
Start-up business accounting is especially difficult when you’re also working another job, so having access to on-demand help and advice made a big difference, she says.
“I’m a satisfied customer of 1-800Accountant. I have always gotten my questions answered and routed to the right places,” she said. “They’ve made it very simple, and it was really a genuine assistance to have 1-800Accountant support me with the start-up business accounting and answer my questions about accounting for non-profits, especially while I was working at another job as well.”
If you’re a farm or ranch owner in Texas, a vet who wants to participate in a hunt, or to donate to the cause, check out the organization’s website at www.hogsforacause.org.
Photo credits: The photograph of Ted Nugent was offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. The photograph of Kristine and David Haehn was provided by the couple, and is used with permission.